Screen Australia notes that only 17 Australian films completed principal photography in the 12 months to June 30.

As is usually but not always the case, foreign players put more money into the Australian feature films made in the last financial year than any other type of investor.

Only 17 Australian films commenced principal photography in the 12 months to June 30 and non-Australians tipped in $46.7m (A$45m) or 37% of the total cost of $124.6m (A$120m).

The producer offset, a rebate on most items of local expenditure paid after completion of the film, contributed 26% to the total. Australian private investors and direct government sources, principally Federal Government agency Screen Australia, added 15% each, and the rest came from Australian private investors, principally distribution and production companies.

Each year Screen Australia compiles a report on the health of the Australian drama scene and the edition examining the 2010/11 financial year was made public on Monday. Films made for less than $519,300 (A$500,000) that have not been in cinemas or in the program of a major festival are not counted.

Seventeen films is way down on the 40 Australian films that cranked up in the 2009/2010 financial year and on the 38 in each of the previous two years.

Screen Australia blames itself but, in the same breath, says there’s nothing to worry about. “Only eight Screen Australia financed films started shooting in 2010/11, down from 21 last year,” the report reads. “This does not reflect a decrease in funding provided for feature films; it is merely a timing issue relating to production schedules and will be balanced by an increase in Screen Australia features in the 2011/12 slate, with films such as Drift, Mental, The Sapphires and The Kath & Kim Filum already underway.”

Proven directors mean Any Questions for Ben? from Rob Sitch (The Dish, The Castle), A Few Best Men from Stephan Elliott (Easy Virtue, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) and The King is Dead! from Rolf de Heer (Bad Boy Bubby, Ten Canoes) are the most eagerly anticipated of the 17 titles, although there is also much buzz around Mark Lamprell’s Goddess. Some have been released already.

Total Australian expenditure in each of the last three years ranged between $178.2m (A$172m) and $382.2m (A$368m). This year it was only $91.4m (A$88m) and not just because of there being fewer films: the lack of big-budget Hollywood-financed Australian films is also a factor although The Great Gatsby from Baz Luhrmann and Paradise Lost from Alex Proyas means a recovery is likely in the current year’s figures.

The strong Australian dollar continues to discourage US blockbusters from using Australia as a location; in the most recent financial year only the Chinese film Love in Space and the Indian film Mr Perfect filmed on Australian soil. Australian visual effects teams were given $31.2m (A$30m) worth of visual effects work on foreign movies filmed elsewhere, mainly in Hollywood.

Facts and figures about adult and kids TV drama is also included in the report: a total of US$514.1m (A$495) million was spent in Australia on drama production.